announces no-charge access to

The on-demand CRM vendor wants more corporate developers and ISVs to try out its platform is hoping to drive more interest from corporate developers and ISVs in its development platform by offering limited, no-cost access, the on-demand CRM vendor announced Monday. Free Edition allows users to develop one custom application that can be deployed to up to 100 users. The offer also includes online training, sample applications, and a testing environment.

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Companies that want greater access can buy subscriptions, which start at $50 per user per month. is "keen for their development platform and tools to be positioned as an alternative to Java and [Microsoft] .Net," said 451 Group analyst China Martens via e-mail. "This is an on-ramp for development, more about trying to achieve some ubiquity at present, rather than much monetization." says is already enjoying significant momentum, with more than 110,000 custom applications developed on it. The vendor says its system helps companies develop applications much faster than traditional toolkits.

To back that claim, Salesforce has been pointing to a recent report from Nucleus Research, which looked at 17 projects. Nucleus found that on average, developers surveyed could create applications 4.9 times faster with than Java or .Net.

This was made possible because the platform allows developers to quickly configure user interfaces and create custom workflows, and take advantage of prebuilt components, according to Nucleus' report.

In addition, applications are deployed into's existing production environment, meaning programmers don't have to make decisions about databases, application servers and other aspects of the development stack, and can save time otherwise spent on testing, Nucleus said.

Of course, some developers may prefer greater flexibility and choice of components. In addition, like any development platform, once a company has invested time and effort in there would be costs involved in making a switch down the road, the Nucleus report noted.

Also Monday, said its previously announced Sites service is now generally available. Customers can use development tools to create Web sites for e-commerce, customer service and other purposes that run on the vendor's infrastructure and perhaps expose data from applications.

Customers who create sites under the Free Edition get up to 250,000 page views per month at no charge. Enterprise Edition users get 500,000 complimentary monthly views, and Unlimited Edition subscribers receive 1 million. Additional million-page-view blocks can be purchased for $1,000 per month.

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